Though every child’s development is unique and complex, we know that this age is critical to future learning. The opportunities to learn at a child’s own pace is so important. Children develop from birth through a generally predictable sequence of steps or milestones, but they don’t all proceed at the same time. As you can imagine, the relationship between the child’s teacher and parent speaks volumes because those closest to a child, with good listening and observation skills, can really make a difference in how much learning is going on.
One of the most critical times in a child’s life is the learning that happens when he/she is four years old. That’s why Virginia has spent a great deal of concentration on guidelines and tools such as the Virginia’s Foundation Blocks for Early Learning.
When it comes to learning, four-year-old children are developing greater self-control and ingenuity. Their pretend play is more complex and imaginative and can be sustained for longer periods. Four-year-olds want to try new experiences. They also want to be more self-reliant and seek to expand the areas of their lives where they can be independent decision-makers. Developing literacy skills at this point sets the pace for reading, speaking, writing, listening, and interacting for preparation for kindergarten success. Here is the list of some of the guidelines in the Literacy Block recommended in Virginia’s Block for Early Learning for four-year-olds.
• Activates engagement through book reading that is expressive, frequent, interactive, and which represents a variety of cultures and perspectives.
• Uses poems, chants, rhymes, and repetition books that feature both fact and fiction to enhance children’s imagination and engagement.
• Promotes concept development through enriched language and activates meaningful conversation through “when, where, how, and why” questions.
• Extends understanding by encouraging children to describe feelings, explain ideas, compare events, and apply new vocabulary/knowledge to past and present experiences.
With technology at our hip, how easy is it to miss opportunities to engage in literacy skills with children? Have you noticed that children seem to stop pretending early these days? It is important for children to play because that is how they learn, explore their feelings and interact with others. Using props is an excellent way to bring children into the lives of characters and stories. Putting aside the cell phone to really listen to children, with eye contact of course, can make such a difference in promoting meaningful interactions, asking children questions. At Ida Barbour, we know our day-to-day activities allow our four-year-olds to communicate. No matter how busy the day may seem, we create opportunities for four-year-olds to engage in new experiences that promote literacy.
If you would like more information on the Virginia Foundation for Early Learning or other resources, visit http://www.doe.virginia.gov/instruction/early_childhood/ .